Tuesday, January 18, 2005


As the ineluctable appeal of the car-crash reality TV that is Channel 4's 'Celebrity Big Brother' traces itself across our screens, an acute comment (below) from Andrew J. McKenna from a fabulous review article on Derrida and Barth. It's about the fake transcendence that resides at the heart of "amusing ourselves to death" (Neil Postgate). Not nearly as fusty as the curious journal First Things can be, either. Thank goodness.

Incidentally, I was hooked by CBB during the glorious five days when, astonishingly, feminist theorist and critic Germaine Greer appeared on it -- only to attempt a failed revolution and then disappear from the ether.

Now Greer is no Susan Sontag (as someone uncharitably but accurately pointed out on BBC2's 'Newsnight Review'), but I still love her for her passion, wit, obstinacy and angularity. As she rightly said to critics of the Big Brother phenomenon: "It isn't the end of the world, it is the world."

Germaine hasn't got anything like as firm a grasp on the true meaning of the "churning shod" of modern cultural detritus as someone like Charlie Brooker (his Screen Burn: TV with its face torn off, Faber/Guardian Books, 2005 is quite the most excruciatingly funny read you'll ever come across) ... but she messed up the BB agenda for a bit. Which was fun.

Anyway, back to McKenna...

"Nietzsche may have had philosophical reasons for rejecting belief in God, but the relentless shrillness of his references to Christianity and Judaism does not derive from philosophical reason. By the time Nietzsche wrote at the end of the nineteenth century, it was no big deal to sneer at God and his churches (though Baudelaire had regarded it as a churlish audacity only a generation earlier). But those who celebrate God's death are left with a purely worldly transcendence. And this worldly transcendence - expressed in the unforgiving competition for public recognition and celebrity - has no antidote to rivalry, precisely because rivalry is its operating principle. Signing himself "the crucified" in his final correspondence, Nietzsche was at last drawn into an insane attempt at rivalry with Jesus and the Gospels."

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